The central conflict of the story is the conflict of varying interests, problem of private property; sharing and property division that eventually leads to poverty. This story conflict touches upon the relationship between honest labor and unfair ways to retrieve the results of somebody else’s work.
The figure of the old woman is a metaphorical representation of Poverty in the world. Ironically, she is the one to plant a very fruitful huaya tree all by her hands, and she also demonstrates her kindness and generosity helping the old man that no one paid attention to. However, she cannot stand the injustice and unfairness of the actions that the people of the town take – they suck upon the tree fruits without permission. However, her generosity in relation to the old man pays her back – she is now able to control the people who climb up her tree and punish them by letting them stay upwards just as long as she wants. The old lady Poverty revenges herself upon her defenders for stealing the fruits of her achievements. She embodies all the humble and humiliated workers who have to share their small possessions with anyone else staying poor and hungry at the same time. Finally, she is enabled to cheat on the Lord of Death, and “for that reason she is still along with us” (Pacheco 3).
The story is allegorical and full of symbols and signs. The huaya tree is chosen for a reason – its seeds are known to be slick, easy to swallow and choke (even to death). The human society challenges the old lady Poverty in many ways: first, trying to suck on her huava tree fruits; second, trying to cut off the tree in order to restore the natural sequence of life; third, unlike her, they do not pay any attention to the little old man who is almost starved to death, and the people’s indifference astonishes Poverty. The indifference and cruelty towards Poverty pushes her to become rebellious and use passive instruments of defense. She protects her property by not letting down those who infringed on her property that she got using honest labor. Those who always urge for more property are always at risk to be caught up by Poverty and lose everything they ever had. Therefore, Poverty is provoked by the people themselves who push her to cheat on Death Lord, add misbalance and always stay ‘alive’ as “many years passed, and Death could not get to anyone, even if someone fell ill” (Pacheco 2).
The central theme of this story is the lack of balance in human society, primarily caused by the unfair property and labor division. It includes necessary demographic and economic indicators such as death rates and poverty rates. Poverty brings lack of balance to the society, and the poor people are not treated fairly enough. The lack of respect is reflected in social activity rejection and disrespect combined with no respect for the basic right of property ownership.
The message of this story implies that the division of property in human society should be based on fair principles, and it can be the only way to eventually get rid of poverty as a social phenomenon. The connection between the conflict and the message is also clear as the message implies a resolution to one of the oldest contradictions existing in human society.